Sunday, 20 March 2016

Beer Rebellion - Gipsy Hill

Things are never clear cut. On the one hand there's plenty of doom and gloom about the future of pubs, with closures regularly reported. To survive, it is said, you have to be 'food led' and 'family friendly'. But at the same time we are in the midst of a craft beer revolution, which has resulted in quirky new bars popping up all over the place, often housed not in former pubs, but as is the case with Beer Rebellion on Gipsy Hill, in a former, long empty bookies.
Middlesborough born Steve Keegan had worked for the large London brewery chain, Fullers. As an area manager, he was responsible for revamping clapped out old boozers., but 5 years ago, he decided to leave the company, in order to start his own brewery, and Late Knights was born. Initially brewing up in Middlesborough, he quickly started supplying pubs in London, and eventually moved operations to a warehouse in Penge, after being introduced to Graham Lawrence who owned the wonderful bar in Brockley, Mr Lawrence, and  also the aforementioned warehouse. As a result, Graham is now Steve's business partner. 
By now Steve was living in Penge, with girlfriend, Bethany, and in 2013, took the next step, opening Beer Rebellion on Gipsy Hill, next door to their current premises. Next door had been Blue Mountain Cafe, so the bar and kitchen were already in place, meaning costs could be kept low. The rental arrangement was on a rolling 3 month lease, great for testing the water without committing too much early on. It was an instant hit however, and last year, Beer Rebellion moved into permanent accommodation right next door. The former bookies had none of the amenities of Blue Mountain, so they had to start from scratch, with Bethany providing the design input. It doesn't have any fancy airs, and just feels very local, down to earth, and rooted in the community (complete with community notice board), which is how Steve likes it. There may now be branches in Sydenham, Peckham, and even as far afield as Ramsgate and Brighton, but this is no corporate chain, rather a means to help regenerate forgotten pockets and unloved buildings. Talking to Steve, you get a sense of him really wanting to make a difference to communities, and is keen to put back as much as possible. So, looking ahead, although it's early days as yet, there are plans afoot for a beer and music festival in Crystal Palace Park over the August Bank Holiday, the proceeds of which would go to supporting the restoration of the dinosaurs. Steve sees festivals as a particularly good way of helping to drive regeneration, but is also setting up a community interest group to work on a variety of other projects.
So apart from great beers, what else do they offer? Well gin is undergoing quite a renaissance too, so there's one available that's brewed down the road in Peckham, which can be accompanied by a tonic from Bermondsey. And while this establishment is not 'food led', their burgers, on buns supplied by Blackbird Bakery are good enough to lure anyone disembarking at the station across the road, for a bite on the way home. Make sure you order the deep fried gherkins as a side, they're a revelation!


Steve Keegan

128 Gipsy Hill
020 8670 9034

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